The story so far

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Leaving Work

I'm due to jump on a plane in 24 hours and may not have Internet access for a while, so I decided to rush this article out. I may try and tidy it up a bit later and add more details. If anyone there thinks I've missed anything worthy of inclusion, please post a comment.

I have given up trying to post photos as I'm in transit and my iPhone keeps crashing. Take a look at my facebook page where I've uploaded a number of commented photos.

A while ago, someone at work asked me if I was having leaving drinks. Anyone who has read my article on saying goodbye will understand why this thought did not fill me full of excitement. I'm not that keen on being centre of attention, I don't like fuss and having to go to the expense and effort of organising something really didn't appeal.

While working at Detica and Vodafone however, I've met some great people, both on a professional and personal level. I had a list of people I really would enjoy going out for a drink with, but it's never that simple. Inviting some people I worked with and not others would be a bit of a faux-pas, but I thought of a cunning way to deal with that, I'd make it slightly awkward to attend so only those that really wanted to come would be there.

Vodafone is pretty dead on a Friday. People take the opportunity to work from home and consequently Thursday night is when people head home to their families. Still, there is a hardcore of young Vodafone types who live in Newbury and go out on the town. I chose a Thursday night and the Bunk on as a venue. The Bunk is a quite village pub and restaurant outside Newbury which was slightly incongruous with what I imagine to be the young person's dream of a drunken night spent drinking larger and dancing at Liquid, Newbury's only nightclub of merit.

It was probably the night before that I started worrying. I knew that some people were coming, quite a few had said that they would pop-in. I worried that too many people would come partly because of the potential expense, which could have been quite significant for an unemployed man to pay. Also I had not warned the pub and dinner had not been discussed. If everyone wanted to eat, I was not sure how practical that would be.

I checked into the hotel mid morning and arranged to meet Mike Smith, John Ridley and James Anderson for lunch at the Carnavon Arms. Since James is likey to play a part in the description of the party, I though it worth mentioning that he ordered the steak and chips with a side order of chips. I think that speaks volumes about him, both in his capacity for food but also in his supreme self confidence in the ability to ask for something which is clearly a bit over-the-top without any concern on how that would appear to others. Not having a sweet tooth, I have often fancied ordering the pate from the starter menu for a desert. I've never done it though.

I left for the Bunk at about 5.45 and bumped into Tim and Fiona in the foyer of the Hilton. I was pleased to see some friendly faces, having imagined sitting at the bar on my own for a couple of hours. That I do not mind, it was just the thought of the first person turning up at 8.00 and saying "is there no-one else here?" that worried me.

The week before, I had invited Emily who works behind the bar at the Hilton. She had told me that she would make sure she would either come along or would be behind the bar that night. I had asked her, just after lunch, what her plans were that evening. She looked a bit taken aback, I think she had forgotten and the question taken out of context sounded like a come on. I didn't put her right. The point is, I wondered how many others would forget and walking out into the foyer (this sounds over dramatic) I felt weak and was shaky. Seeing Tim and Fiona was really nice.

What was even nicer is that Tim informed me that he and James (Two plates) Anderson had been trying to work out if they could front up the costs of the evening. I didn't think it would be obvious to others that my last pay-check had come in and I was a bit worried about how long my fairly modest savings would last. It was nice to think that James and Tim had thoughtfully considered this, and a weight off my mind also.

Before I had left home Hannah, my beautiful, caring and slightly dictatorial wife had given me a lecture on the dangers of drinking too much. She had advised me that I should drink slowly and take water between each alcoholic beverage. Impressively I made the first pint last half an our and drank at least half a glass of water, after that I don't remember what happened, but I remember finding it easier to get my hands on fags than water. I worked with that.

A large contingent from Detica showed up as well as a few of the Vodafone people from the last project I worked on. This project has been the unfortunate recipient of a German product naming committee, who saw fit to name the product the "Vodafone Access Gateway", I guess not recognising the connotations in English. Nicola, the product manager has been taking stick about her VAG ever since. I think the reason people keep teasing her is that she obviously enjoys it!

About eight o'clock, we all decided to sit down for a meal. Even Chris joined us for a starter and desert, despite already having polished off a Burger King at Chievley services. At some point Damon, turned up. He had been aiming to arrive by 7.00, but in typical style rocked up at about 8.30 bearing gifts and wine. It was at that point that I first heard mention of a speech, I hadn't considered this before but Anderson seemed to be very enthusiastic about it.

As I said before, I am not keen on being centre of attention and the thought of making a speech scared me. I decided not to think about it and aim to be short and sweet. Fortunately Anderson came to the rescue again. He also has two personalities, lets call them James and Anderson. When you add beer or wine to James, he turns into Anderson. Anderson is loud, excitable character who speaks a different language to the rest of us. It sounds like English, but you're never quite sure what he is talking about.

Anyway, I could see Anderson was getting ready to announce the speeches in the traditional way, as he prepared to tap his glass with a knife. In typical inebriated exuberance however, his backlift was far great than necessary to catch the attention of the other diners. As the knife curved upwards in an arc behind his head, I could see Brett, who was sitting next to him, flinch visibly. He brought the knife down swiftly and followed straight through, destroying the glass and spraying wine over himself, Brett and Damon. Normally this would be considered an unfortunate accident and he may have got some sympathy, but you see, Anderson is famous for this type of thing.

Roars of laughter and derision echoed round the table and I secretly thanked the lord for Mr Anderson. The speech was short and sweet as being already quite drunk I had the memory span of a gnat. I was pleased however that I managed to convey my feelings about what a great bunch of people they were and that although I had invited fifty, the fifteen who turned up were the ones I really wanted to be there, even Mr Anderson.

I've learned alot while at Vodafone, although despite his best efforts, Peter Cole has been the latest person to fail in teaching me how to spell. Knowing that he might read this, I've tried really hard, but I'm sure he could still find something to pull me up on.

After the meal, we all headed back to the Hilton for a traditional Whisky. Damon had brought his Xbox and some games so Anderson asked the Hilton if we could project it on the wall. When told "no" Damon and Anderson decided that they would go and get it anyway and project it on the ceiling using Damon's box of Mr Kipling Angel Cakes to prop the projector up at the right angle.

I guess technically thay had not been asked not to do this, but I still felt quite bad that we were abusing the Hilton staff who had been good to me. Fortunately they didn't seem to mind and the only other people in the bar at that time were a group of double glazing salesmen who seemed to enjoy the opportunity of taking the piss out of Damon. "I bet you wish you had a girlfriend" I heard one of them shout.

The next couple of hours saw a serious Street Fighter session with Damon's arcade style joystick taking a battering. My Beattie was doing a fine job in a constant relay between the bar and the tables and everyone was getting excited, especially Mt Anderson, whose battle cries could be heard in Newbury centre, three miles down the road.

As the night drew on, people retired to bed, we quietened down and turned the Xbox off. That's when Damon started offering "Bar Snacks" These consisted of sour cream and chive flavoured crickets and barbecue flavoured meal worms. Most of us, despite being drunk were to compos mentis to consider eating this foul fare, despite Damon's insistence that in Australia, sometimes you have to eat this stuff. That is, everyone apart from Mr Anderson. Of course he was so fired up that he ate a cricket and a meal worm without even flinching.

That started off Steve and Chris. Both of them consumed crickets and Steve had some meal worms as well. Damon made the mistake of looking too closely at one of the crickets. "I can't eat it now I've looked it in the eye" he said. Then it was my turn. On the basis that the others had done it, I bit the bullet (or the cricket). I didn't get much sour cream and chive, just a kind of dusty flavour, probably similar to eating dried oak leaves. Not great but then not too bad either.

Finally only Anderson, Damon and I remained. We shared the pack of Mr Kiplings Angel Cakes and I reflected on the evening and the last few years. These were great times and I have met some really great people. What made me happy was that everyone seemed keen to come and pay me a visit in Australia. Earlier I had shared several emotional goodbyes with Kish, Fiona, Tim and others. Even if a few of them come and visit, I will be very happy.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot be held responsible for the bunk's poor quality glassware!